According to a Canadian Press story posted yesterday on Global News, one of the four people originally charged in the disappearance of Linda (Montana) Jones’ 31 Shropshire sheep, has now pleaded guilty to one count of transport or causing to transport and an animal under quarantine. Suzanne Atkinson will be sentenced January 30th.
The sheep in question were removed in April of 2012 from Ms. Jones’ farm near Trent Hills Ontario, while the farm was under quarantine by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Suzanne Atkinson was among four persons charged by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency after the Shropshire sheep were removed in April 2012 while the farm near Trent Hills, Ont., was under federal quarantine by the CFIA.
The reason given for the quarantine is that the farm was suspected of being contaminated with scrapie, which is a brain disease affecting goats and sheep, the story said.
Atkinson was initially charged with four offenses, as were Linda Jones, Michael Schmidt and Robert Pinnell. Other charges include conspiracy to commit obstruction of a CFIA officer.
Pre-trial dates for the remaining three accused have been set for February 17th through March 2nd, 2015. The actual jury trial, which is expect to run 3 to 4 weeks, will take place at a later date. See this Sept 22 post on The Bovine for more on that.
Reaction from two of the remaining accused has been to suggest that it’s really the actions of the CFIA in this case that should be called into question.
In response to an email yesterday, Michael Schmidt wrote:
“Making a deal in this case with the CFIA to have multiple charges dropped or fines reduced is very common.
It gives satisfaction to the prosecutors because they have avoided the scrutiny at trial and can claim victory.
This trial with the three remaining co-accused is potentially about senseless and ruthless policy enforcement. It is done in order to proof to the world that Canada can ship sheep all over the world. Trade, trade, trade. Economic reasons dictate insane policies, and therefore killers,( CFIA) charge people who try to prevent senseless killings with conspiracy and obstruction under the criminal code. Bureaucrats on the loose enjoy the pleasure of dictatorial power without mercy.”
And here’s Montana Jones’ reaction to the news:
“As far as I know all the other co-accused are pleading not guilty, myself included. But the really guilty parties may never be properly charged…they work for the government who created a policy that kills healthy rare heritage breed livestock. Over 70 Ontario Shropshire sheep are now dead because of CFIA. It’s been four years and NOTHING has changed in their policy. That’s my hope for the trial, is that we focus on what is intrinsically right, and what is so obviously wrong with the system as it stands now.”
Although it appears three of the original four charges were dropped, at this point one can only speculate as to the full extent of the deal agreed between Suzanne Atkinson and the prosecutors. We’ll see in February whether she also agreed to testify against the others who were charged in the alleged conspiracy.
For more background, see this story on The Bovine from January 7th, 2014 on “Saving the Sheep from the Wolves”.